Nov 05 2008
President-elect Barack Obama

President-elect Barack Obama: You Want to be a Great President

I waited until this morning to write this. I wanted to see what it would feel like to wake up knowing that Barack Obama is the leader of the country. Got to tell you.. it’s a great feeling.

Early in the primary, I was leaning on supporting Hillary Clinton. She was the brand name, well known candidate. John Edwards had my ear too. Like most people, I only knew Barack Obama from his 2004 convention speech. That night he wow’d everyone. Not a minute after he finished, news commentators whispered that he could run for president one day..  imagine that.

In August 2006, I wrote the first post-convention Whudat blurb about Barack Obama. He was in Men’s Vogue. When asked if he would run for president, Barack answered, “Look, it was highly unlikely that I would ever be a U.S. senator, so it’s very flattering for people to talk about a presidential race.. But added.. “My attitude about something like the presidency is that you don’t want to just be the president. You want to change the country. You want to make a unique contribution. You want to be a great president.”

I commented that he would probably run in 2012, after Hillary lost her bid. To everyone’s surprise (outside his inner circle) in February 2007, Barack announced that he was running for president in 2008. While I was interested in his story and impressed by his eloquence, I didn’t know enough about him as a political candidate to stick on a big ol’ Obama campaign button. And it wasn’t until the Iowa primary that I took a real look at his campaign.

Barack Obama campaigns in Iowa - September 2007

It wasn’t just winning in a majority white state. It was how Hillary Clinton wasn’t taking Barack Obama seriously. As if his run was, cute adolescent idealism. Really, a black guy is going to be president? I took that kind of subtle disrespect personal. Then there were people saying he had no real plans.

One Saturday morning I’m flipping channels. I’m on CSPAN. There was Barack Obama in a half-crowded auditorium, giving a live, unfiltered, stump speech. He laid it all out: from the health care plan, to the taxes, to Iraq. What really impressed me about him, was how he seemed to care about the answer he gave to people during the Q&A session. This wasn’t politics by the numbers. About a month later I was sold on this ‘Change’ and firmly seated on the Obama train.

He was the best candidate.

Yesterday, 62 million people (white, black, latino, asian) agreed.

Supporters of Barack Obama in India

Around the world (that’s India), Barack Obama was the choice for change.

Let’s put the upcoming policy decisions aside: there will be plenty of time for that.

What makes me smile today is the example President Obama should become for the youth of this country. I’d say black youth, but this morning I heard a Hispanic woman say she was excited about the opportunities for the latino community. I’m sure there are young white people who are a little more focused today. Barack Obama’s rise is an example of what’s possible if you put your mind to it - period.

He did not run as.. the black president. I don’t think millions of white people voted for him because of his race and no black/brown person should have voted solely for that reason, but the undeniable side benefit of an African-American man being the face of the country is how it effectively vaporizes any idea that race is a reason to accept defeat or limitation.

Here’s the best thing: you don’t have to reach for president to benefit. Just be focused on *insert career dream here*

Barack Obama in Grant Park - Yes We Can!

What a way to end a campaign.

This is a historic time, people. Enjoy it.

☼ What's Your Opinion? ☼

1 WOW Wed, Nov 05, 2008 - 5:50 pm

“the undeniable side benefit of an African-American man being the face of the country is how it effectively vaporizes any idea that race is a reason to accept defeat or limitation.”

—That’s a powerful statement!!! and one of the most major points that I hope our people and children receiving from this historic event. Great post!

2 Come back down to earth people Wed, Nov 05, 2008 - 6:36 pm

Race is never a reason to accept defeat or limitation but because of Obama’s great victory it seems like a lot of us black people are forgetting that we are still the minorities in this country and we are still going to get treated like s**t. Obama’s victory made HIM president not the rest of us and we need to remember that. Having said that, this is truly a historic time in our lives.

3 WOW Wed, Nov 05, 2008 - 9:20 pm

No, I don’t think anyone has forgotten that we’re the minority. However, I do think that Obama’s victory has showed us all that despite being the minority and being treated like shit, you can still make it. He’s a role model. His victory is tangible evidence of the possibilites that are out there. We should all be ecstatic about the overwhelming spirit of optimism that this historic event has brought about.

4 1 UP Wed, Nov 05, 2008 - 10:13 pm

WOW, I agree with you we all should be ecstatic but there are too many black people getting on TV after this victory screaming how “anything’s possible” based on Obama’s victory. Black senators, governors, mayors, and representatives don’t represent what goes on in the hood with police officers, unemployment, and a host of minority problems and they need to stop with the sayings like “this proves that we have overcome”. Obama has overcome not the rest of us and all I am saying is we had our day now lets get back to life as it is lets not get ahead of ourselves because they still want to keep us down us for the most part. Now more than ever. This is just great a day inm our history not a change for the rest of our lives. Definitely enjoy it, but this is a small part, less than 1%, of where we have to go to get equality.

5 owen stuchbery Thu, Nov 06, 2008 - 1:02 am

yes you can mr obama. yes you can!

6 WOW Thu, Nov 06, 2008 - 10:52 am

I hear you. But his win has sparked a renewed sense of pride and optimism in black America. I love that we are embracing him with such passion and letting go of the “I can’t because I’m black” attitude. I’m glad that we are celebrating in unity and not on tv bashing him and bringing him down. After all that we have sufferred and continously go through, we should definitely be able to have more than just our day. 2009 should be declared our year! I believe his example and leadership will free a lot of us from the mental chains that still bind us. I agree that we will still face challenges that are out of Obama’s control and that we have not overcome yet. But this is a turning point for us to be even more encouraged and determined to do better for ourselves no matter what the odds are.

7 1 UP Thu, Nov 06, 2008 - 1:18 pm

WOW, this is a very prideful victory but the optimism remains to be seen. I am hopeful for the country as a whole but for black people I really don’t see any change. All I am saying TO EVERYONE is lets not get ahead of ourselves and be on your best behavior because trust me white America is really going to be watching us. Imagine being pulled over by a republican cop now??? Just something to think about.

8 MsMoni Fri, Nov 07, 2008 - 9:30 pm

I was talking with my grandmother today, and I realized how big of a feat Barack’s victory really is.  My grandmother is 70 years young and has never known an America as accepting as the one that voted on Tuesday.  I can not forget the long history of those before who paved the way for this success, but I can not forget that our future is dependent on what we do now that he’s in office.  He can not do everything on his own, and we can not become so consumed with our past that we forget that we are sowing the seeds for our future. 
I agree with 1 up in that we as black people have to use this time to show ourselves that we can sustain the positivity that Obama’s election has created.  Let us take this time to truly change.  It’s time for us to grow up and get our act together because now we have no excuses.  Our race may give us a harder road to travel, but the road to success can be navigated.  Now is the time to really put our minds together and figure out how to get things going.